Collins steps up to the challenge

With both Jerod Mayo(IR) and Hightower(temporary) out for the game versus the Chargers, second year Linebacker Jamie Collins took the role as leader and playcaller for a Patriots defense that held the Chargers offense to seven points. COllins played a big role in the success of the defense in his best game so far of his career. I’ll break down some of his plays from his game, and show what he did so well.

Against the run

Playside zone

Personnel 11(1RB, 1TE)
Formation: Doubles slot left
Defense: 4-2(Nickel)

Zone left, Collins in red

In the first run play of the game The chargers have a strong left side with both the TE and slot receiver to that side. They run a zone play to their strong side, meaning everyone on the line takes their first step to the left and blocks the defender in that zone. Collins is lined up as a weakside inside linebacker on the right side of the offense.

This is a good play by Collins as he quickly reads the play as a zone play to the strong side, and instantly flows to the play. When the Center tries to block him he does a good job of making a swim move before the center can engage in the block. He then runs parallel to the line of scrimmage(LOS) and hits the running back 2 yards after the LOS, and is then dragged for 3 more yards. A good all around play by Collins with help from his linemen occupying blockers and getting pressure in the backfield.

Collins swims by the center

Collins swims by the center

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Shotgun middle

Personnel 11(1RB, 1TE)
Formation: Doubles gun slot left
Defense: 4-2

Before the snap the defensive tackles are lined up outside the guards and both linebackers, Collins and Casillas, are lined up over the center showing blitz. Right before the snap both linebackers drop off a few yards.

Collins reads the play very fast as the OL takes their first step forward and starts to run block. Once again the center tries to block him, but he sides steps the block and finds the hole that is created by the left tackle blocking the end(Ayers) to the outside and the right guard blocking the DT(Wilfork) to the inside. Collins then burst into the backfield and makes a tackle for a 2 yard loss.

Collins side steps the center and finds the gap in the OL

Collins side steps the center and finds the gap in the OL

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Coming into the league Collins was a prospect with impressive athleticism and very good combine numbers, but still a raw linebacker. He had some struggles against the run in his first year and in the start of this season. But he has improved and against the Chargers he showcased good vision, quick diagnosis of the play, good angles, and good block shedding, making him a force in the run defense which held the Chargers running backs to 14 runs for 45 yards(3.2 Y/A)

Against the pass

RB Flat

Personnel: 11(1RB, 1TE)
Formation: Gun trips left
Defense: 4-2

RB Flat

The defense runs a man-man coverage with the slot corner(Arrington blitzing) while the safety(McCourty picks up that blitz). Collins is responsible for the running back

Collins does a very good job of mirroring the running back behind the line of scrimmage and when the RB turns towards the sideline Collins puts himself in a position where Rivers can’t get the ball to the RB.

RB Flat midplay

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 RB push out

Collins in red when the ball is caught by the RB

Collins in red when the ball is caught by the RB

In this play Casillas have the coverage on the running back who’s running into the flat. But Casillas trips when the running back turns towards the sideline. Collins cover the middle of the field. When he sees Casillas slipping he takes an angle that will give him the possibility to push the RB out-of-bounds or tackle him before the first down.

If you have been a Patriots fan the last couple of years then a common reason for frustration has probably been running backs that catches a short pass in the flat and breaks away from the linebackers for a large gain and a first down. That is probably something we will see much less of with the emergence of Collins in the passing game.

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Sack

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On this play Collins blitzes right on the center. It starts by Collins getting his hands on the center before the center can get a good block. He then uses his power to push the center to the side, getting a clear lane to take down Rivers. This play shows the improvement that Collins has made over the season. In earlier games he struggled tackling QBs in the backfield, often running past them when they side stepped. Two times against the Chargers he got into the backfield with speed and made the tackle on a scrambling Rivers.

Collins throws away the center

Collins throws away the center

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Collins had himself a very fine game against the Chargers and if he continues like this the Patriots will have a very good LB duo with speed and power who can both cover the pass and stop the run for their 4-2 defense with Collins and Hightower both playing at a very high level.

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